NEW YORK (AP) – Tim Hudson pitched seven gritty innings before turning it over to one of the best bullpens in baseball, and Omar Infante’s hot bat helped the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 4-0 on Saturday.
Infante, the Braves’ jack-of-all trades All-Star, had three hits and drove in a run after getting four hits in the series opener. Hudson (9-4) helped himself with a pair of hits that included an RBI double during a four-run fifth.
The Braves won their fourth straight game and moved five in front of the Mets in the NL East with one game left before the All-Star break. They have a chance to sweep the series Sunday after losing three straight at Citi Field in late April.
As if losing ground in the division wasn’t bad enough, the Mets also watched Jose Reyes leave the game after making a difficult fielding play in the seventh inning.
The All-Star shortstop appeared to hurt himself ranging to his right to field a grounder by Troy Glaus and making a long throw to first base. Reyes has been hampered by a sore left side that has prevented the switch-hitter from batting from the right side the last few games.
The Braves got all their offense against Mike Pelfrey (10-4) in the fifth, chasing him with five straight singles to open the inning. Hudson’s two-out RBI double off Elmer Dessens made it 4-0.
Pelfrey had been dominant through his first 15 starts this season, enough so that many thought he deserved to be included on the NL All-Star roster. But the big right-hander has been abysmal since, giving up 15 runs over 13 1-3 innings and twice allowing a career-high 12 hits.
All 12 of Atlanta’s hits off Pelfrey in this one were singles. Pelfrey allowed 15 of his 25 batters to reach base and hasn’t lasted more than six innings since June 19.
The damage could have been even worse against the Braves, who loaded the bases in the second and fourth against Pelfrey but had nothing to show for it. Atlanta left 13 on base.
Angel Pagan had three of the Mets’ four hits, and is creating a nice problem for manager Jerry Manuel. He’s been swinging one of the team’s best bats, but will lose his everyday spot in center field when Carlos Beltran comes off the disabled list after the All-Star break.
Pagan was just about all the offense New York could muster against the 34-year-old Hudson, who worked around four hits and two walks while striking out three.
Hudson has recovered from Tommy John surgery two years ago to re-establish himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. He’s lasted at least seven innings in each of his last seven starts, one of the main reasons he was picked to his first All-Star team since 2004.
There’s been no drop-off when Hudson – or any of the Braves’ starters, for that matter – leave the game. The third-best bullpen by ERA in the majors has allowed only one hit over 4 1-3 innings to wrap up the first two games of the series.
NOTES: Mets SS Luis Castillo (bruised right heel) began a rehab stint with Class-A St. Lucie on Sunday. RHP John Maine (right shoulder weakness) will begin throwing to hitters this week. Reyes nearly hit Hudson with his bat when he let go while flailing at a pitch in the sixth inning.